I spend several days a week at Green Valley Lakes fishing. I am always thrilled by the wildlife at the park, including the elk and eagle sightings.

One of my favorites memories is a fall morning when I was rigging up a fly fishing rod in the parking lot. I noticed an elk at the corner of the Julia Randall Elementary School property. The bull had been grazing on grass and then preceded to cross at the crosswalk; stopping traffic. He continued his stroll past Lake 2 and the parking lot to his next grazing destination. I have a video of this large bull clip-clopping down the road with his breath billowing in the cold morning air.

It is always a treat to see the eagles hunt. It is a wonder to me how they know when Game and Fish are going to stock the lakes with trout. Each year, they show up within a week of the first trout stocking in October.

I love to see ospreys on the lake too. While eagles seem a bit casual in their fly and grab of fish, ospreys go at it differently. They lunge into the water to the point that it seems impossible for them to get back out of the water.

Sometimes I will see someone encourage their dog to chase the waterfowl. That is harassing wildlife. If you see someone harassing wildlife, contact the animal control officer by calling the non-emergency line of the Payson Police Department, 928-474-5177.

I was sad and angry to read in the Roundup that someone recently shot one of the geese with an arrow at the park. As tragic as that is, I was not at all surprised to see a group of people rush to try to help the bird. The wildlife at the lake brings great joy to many of us. I have a special fondness for the great blue herons that frequent the lakes. I have to confess that even though I don’t keep my fish, I toss a bluegill or a crappie to a heron occasionally. One of the herons is missing a toe. I suspect that discarded fishing line is the cause of that injury. Herons roost in tall trees at night or when they are raising their young in nests. It would be easy for dangling fishing line from a heron’s foot to get caught on a branch. I am always on the watch for fishing line as I walk around the lakes because it is a hazard to birds, mammals and fish. I’ve even seen it strangle and drown a turtle in the lake.

Waterfowl are vulnerable to fishing line. When they walk around in flocks, a strand of fishing line can become entangled in their legs. This happened recently to a coot. Fortunately, a woman noticed the coot could barely walk because of the tangled fishing line. She caught the bird with hopes of untangling the fishing line. I put my fishing rod down to lend a hand and clipped as much of the fishing line as I could away. She brought the bird to a veterinarian and about an hour later, she released the bird back into the lake after the vet removed the rest of the line.

The members of the Payson Flycasters Club/Gila Trout Trout Unlimited Chapter have regular lake cleanups. We spend a few hours collecting all kinds of trash from the lakes and the shoreline. We often fish with a trash bag on our belt or in our pocket. Unfortunately, it is a rare day that I don’t leave the lake with some fishing line or trash. If you are planning a walk at Green Valley Park, take a small trash bag to pick up anything left that might endanger wildlife. I thank you, and I am sure the wildlife will appreciate it too.

Contact the reporter at abechman@payson.com

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